Monday, February 9, 2015

It's a Dog's Life - Literally

What a strange week. A blizzard, a massage that almost involved the police, and saving a dog’s life.
The blizzard that hit North America and promised three feet of snow in Manhattan turned out to be little more than a flurry. I was out walking the streets in it and it was really rather beautiful. That didn’t stop New Yorkers adhering, to the letter, to the Mayor’s State of Emergency declaration. Supermarket shelves were emptied, the transport system shut down, and bars and restaurants closed early.
My social networking communication went into meltdown with worried family and friends from the UK checking to see if my head was still above snow level. No amount of reassurance on my part – that New York is a very big place, that Connecticut is not in the next street, and that I’ve seen worse weather in Wales (on an almost weekly basis, come to that) - gave them confidence that I would survive the blizzard of all blizzards.
I happened to be out in it as I had just had lunch courtesy of my good friend and brilliant lyricist Sir Tim Rice, who was in town on business. We went to a local Italian and, despite his efforts for his taxi to get me home, I decided to hoof it in order for him to get to his next meeting on time.
There is something incredibly invigorating and exhilarating about walking in falling snow. Put it down to childhood memories of Christmas, or the memory of unexpected days off school, or just the sheer wonder when one’s world turns white, it’s just a weather condition I have always loved.
The massage was supposed to be just as enjoyable, but very nearly wasn’t. I have been suffering from lower back pain for over a year now, not helped, I am sure, by lugging enormous bags around various countries of the world. This week, though, the pain was so bad I decided to go for some deep tissue massage at a venue advertising itself as a spa specialising in certain kinds of Chinese body work, rather than one of the places with dirty net curtains and a luminous red sign saying MASSAGE in the window.
My masseur looked like a Sumo wrestler, but I had very deep knots and, if anyone was going to unravel them, it was going to be this guy. So, I lay down in the little cubicle, relaxed and prepared my body for attack.
From my area, I could hear another voice from beyond the curtain – a man’s voice wanting a massage. In the cubicle next to mine, I heard him ask first if they had a shower, then if they had a hot towel. Then he asked for a hot towel again, shortly before the words “Don’t touch me!” came from the screaming masseuse.
I’m not sure what happened next, but my masseur apologised and left, there was some discussion with the touchy feely man, and what was clearly an altercation with the threat of the police being called. “Sorry about that,” said Sumo, returning, followed by the masseuse, who then insisted on showing me exactly what had happened, grabbing my hand from where I was lying on the couch, and pressing it to her leg and rubbing it up and down. Yeah, yeah, I get the picture. Now get back to my knots.
Now, to my new role as the New York Dog Whisperer. One of the reasons my knots had been worse was because I had agreed to be a dog walker for 10 days when my good friend and neighbour was away, and one of her regular dog walkers was no longer available. I took the lunchtime shift, but on walk number three noticed that Keela was limping. She had great difficulty walking and kept falling over, until she finally gave up and sat on the sidewalk, her back right leg doubled up under her body. I had to carry her home – and, at 16 kilos, that was never going to bode well for my knots.
I have grown up with dogs and told the holiday carers they should call the vet. “She wasn’t limping this morning,” was their response, making me feel like the dog abuser of the scenario.
I know a dog in pain when I see one and, after contacting the owner (who, quite rightly, worships this adorable dog), the carers were instructed to take Keela to the vet the next day if the situation hadn’t improved overnight. It didn’t, and she was whisked into doggie emergency.
It transpired the poor little thing had a herniated disc, which required urgent surgery by a neurologist. They didn’t think she would survive it (I learned that she was paralysed when she was taken in) but, thankfully, she did. I have been to see her in the hospital twice and she greets me as the mighty saviour I undoubtedly am.
It’s heartbreaking to see animals in pain, and I feel quite wrecked, having gone from abuser to saint in the space of just a few hours.
I’m hoping for a less eventful week today, although there is the promise of more snow. In Manhattan, it ain’t gonna happen, trust me. 

It’s not only dogs I understand.

I’m the New York Weather Whisperer, too.       


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